Sachin tipped for return to top after century

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Cambridge, England:Sachin Tendulkar has been tipped for a swift return to the top of world cricket after smashing his way to a century in his first match since undergoing shoulder surgery in March.

Suggestions the Indian legend is no longer quite the player he was looked wide of the mark as Tendulkar displayed his full range of shots on his way to a knock of 155 from 119 balls for Lashings World XI in a match against Cambridge University on Wednesday.

The innings included several perfectly executed pull shots, suggesting Tendulkar's shoulder is in good shape, although the most he would say was that it is "getting better."

Former England all-rounder Phil DeFreitas was among those who watched in awe from the boundary.

"Touch and class never go away and he showed it," said the Lashings 12th man.

Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif believes the 33-year-old Tendulkar could have several rich batting years ahead of him.

"Great batting talent never dies," he told BBC Sport. "Steve Waugh played until 38 and Graham Gooch too played great cricket late in his career.

"Sachin was the top-run-scorer in the last World Cup - maybe he can be the top run-scorer in the next one."

Tendulkar had needed just 91 balls to bring up his 100 and powered on in similar vein before being caught at mid-on while trying to pull a full toss from medium pacer Ben Jacklin.

The thrilling knock included 25 boundaries and three sixes.

The 33-year-old had been greeted back to cricket with a large cheer as he walked out, although the bouncers he received in his first over back at the crease were markedly less welcoming.

The bowling was never good enough to trouble a player of Tendulkar's quality however and he was soon setting about the students' attack in robust fashion.

The shoulder surgery forced Tendulkar to miss seven one-dayers at home against England as well as the ongoing tour of the West Indies.

Despite the evidence that his body is back in good shape, Tendulkar would not be drawn into predicting that he would definitely be ready for a triangular series in Sri Lanka in August, where India will face their hosts and South Africa.

"I'll try (to be ready)," was as much as he would say on that subject.

Tendulkar is due to play four more matches for Lashings, a charity fund-raising select that features former internationals such as West Indies duo Richie Richardson and Courtney Walsh.

The batsman, whose next outing will be on Sunday at Reigate cricket club, had said before Wednesday's match that he was looking forward to easing himself back into action in a "no pressure, relaxed environment."

He admitted earlier this month that the shoulder injury, and fears it could have a lasting impact on his ability to dominate bowlers, had given him many sleepless nights.

"There have been days full of frustration where you just want to get back in action but the body does not cooperate even if your mind is ready to go out there and do it," he said.

Tendulkar, who has spent 16 years in international cricket, has been plagued with injuries in recent times, including a tennis elbow problem that also required surgery two years ago.

Tendulkar holds the world record for Test match hundreds with 35 and was the first batsman to score 50 centuries in all international cricket.

In 132 Tests he has scored 10,469 runs at an average of 55.39 with a best of 248 not out. His 362 one-day internationals have yielded 39 hundreds and 14,146 runs in all at an average of 44.20, with an unbeaten 186 his highest score.

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